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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 4

Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-04-04-02-0202

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1782-04-01

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My dearest Friend

The States of Holland and West Friesland have followed the Example of Friesland, in acknowledging American Independence. <I received> The American Minister received Yesterday officially, from the Grand Pensionary of Holland a Copy of their Resolution.
We have not yet the Mail, with an Account of the new British Ministry, tho the last informed Us of a Change. Whether for the better time will shew.1
I have yet no News of Charles's Arrival.
The French Ambassadors House at the Hague, has been burnt, which I regret very much, more on Account of the Interruption to his Thoughts and Exertions in these critical Moments, than for the Value of the Loss which is however very considerable. The Due de la Vauguion is an able Minister and my very good Friend.2 I have bought an House at the Hague to which I shall remove the 1st. May.3 Will you come and see me?

[salute] Adieu—Adieu!4

{ 304 }
1. North's ministry resigned on 20 March in the face of an opposition motion of censure which everyone knew would pass if put to a vote. Parliament then adjourned, and after tortuous negotiations between the King (who would not deal directly with Lord Rockingham, leader of the opposition) and Lord Shelburne, the Rockingham ministry was formed on 27 March, to be succeeded, upon Rockingham's death, by Shelburne's ministry on 4 July.
2. The Duc de La Vauguyon (1746–1828), briefly identified under JQA to JA , 17 May 1781, above, appears with some frequency in JA's Diary and Autobiography ; see esp. vol. 2:457. A year earlier he had endeavored to dissuade JA from delivering his Memorial of 19 April to the States General, but, after failing in this attempt, La Vauguyon cooperated with JA to the extent of his powers, particularly in the strategy JA was now pursuing; see further, note 4 below.
The French Embassy on the Prinsessegracht at The Hague was destroyed by fire on 26 March. There is an account in the s'Gravenhaagse Courant of 29 March. See an illustration in this volume of the building when it was built twenty years earlier in what was then a new part of the city.
3. On 15 March, anticipating his recognition as minister, JA reported to Francis Dana that he had purchased “an house at the Hague, fit for the Hotel des Etats Unis, or if you will L'Hotel de nouveau Monde” (MHi:Dana Papers). The building was on the Fluwelen Burgwal or Street of the Velvet Makers' Wall, on a site which, with adjacent property, is now occupied by the Netherlands Government Printing Office. Documents bearing on its acquisition (through JA 's agent at The Hague, C. W. F. Dumas) and an engraved illustration of the site about 1830 will be found in JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:ix–x, 4–5, and facing p. 65. JA moved into this first American-owned legation building in Europe on 12 May. Dumas, his wife, and their young daughter were the caretakers. See JA to JQA , 13 May; Thaxter to AA , 27 July; both below.
4. What this letter conveyed, more by implication than in so many words, was that the first and chief objective of JA 's year of watchful waiting, mixed with strenuous journalistic and diplomatic campaigning, was about to be realized. In the spring of 1781 he had written and, in spite of obstacles strewn in his way, had presented to the States General his Memorial announcing his receipt of powers from Congress as minister plenipotentiary, requesting recognition in that capacity, and arguing the advantages that would flow from an alliance and the opening of commerce between the United Netherlands and the United States. For details see notes on JA to AA , 11 March and 28 April 1781, both above; also JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:457. As he had been taught to expect, the ad referendum process, from the States General to the assemblies of the seven provinces and back again, would take time. At length in December he was advised by La Vauguyon, who under instruction from Versailles was eager to promote the plans of the Dutch Patriots against the pro-English Stadholder, that he might “now assume an higher Tone, which the late Cornwallization will well warrant,” and might begin formal calls upon the great officers of the republic, the several regencies, and especially the deputies of the cities of the Province of Holland, requesting “an Answer to my former Proposition” ( JA to Pres. Thomas McKean, 18 Dec. 1781, PCC, No. 84, III; printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:55; La Vauguyon to JA , 30 Dec. 1781, Adams Papers; printed in JA, Works , 7:500–501). On 9 Jan. 1782, accordingly, JA began a round of visits at The Hague to present a “réquisition verbale” demanding “a Categorical Answer” to his request for recognition. An English text of the “réquisition” or “Ulteriour Address” is in JA's Collection of State-Papers, 1782, p. 21; see also JA to McKean, 14 Jan. (PCC, No. 84, III; printed in Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:97–100). Meanwhile JA 's friends among the merchants, publishers, and political leaders of the Patriot party, chiefly in the cities of Holland but in some other provinces as well, busied themselves getting up petitions { 305 } favoring recognition of and trade with the United States, some of the results of which have been alluded to in preceding letters in this volume. These had their effect: the first province to instruct its deputies to vote for recognition was Friesland, 26 Feb.; on 28 March, after some last-minute hesitations, the assembly of Holland similarly instructed its deputies. Dumas wrote instantaneously: “La grande oeuvre est accomplie,” adding that he was unable to see more than one or two of the members because they “sont actuellement è célcébrer l'oeuvre en bonne compagnie, et le verre en main” (to JA , 28 March, Adams Papers). Holland's action virtually determined that of the remaining provinces, all five of which announced favorable decisions on or before 17 April. Texts of the provincial resolutions and instructions are in JA's Collection of State-Papers, 1782, p. 79–91. See further, John Thaxter to JA , 20 April, below, and note 1 there.